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Category Archives: Covert Action

Ongoing “Covert” Training of Syrian Rebels: But Is It Still Covert . . . , And, If So, Why?

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Monday, September 22, 2014 at 8:45 AM

[Cross-Posted at Just Security]  Last week Congress approved, and the President signed, legislation that authorizes the Secretary of Defense (see section 149) to “provide assistance, including training, equipment, supplies, and sustainment, to appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian opposition and other appropriately vetted Syrian groups and individuals,” for three specified purposes, including “defending the Syrian people from . . .
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Senator Udall Discusses Covert Action in Syria to Train 2-3K Moderate Rebels

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Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 1:46 PM

From yesterday’s Senate Arms Services Committee Hearing (at about the 2:23 mark): Senator UDALL (NM):  And my question to you has to do with – and this is all public information, but everybody’s well aware there’s been a covert operation, operating in the region to train forces, moderate forces, to go into Syria and to . . .
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More on CIA Drone Strikes, Covert Action, TMA, and the Fifth Function

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Sunday, September 7, 2014 at 6:16 PM

Yesterday Kevin Heller and I exchanged views on the possible sources of domestic authorization for the CIA to conduct drone strikes. His two initial posts are here and here; my response is here; and the first part of Kevin’s reply (focused on whether the drone strike program counts as covert action given the traditional military . . .
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CIA Drone Strikes and the Public Authority Justification

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Saturday, September 6, 2014 at 4:01 PM

In a pair of posts (here and here), Kevin Heller at Opinio Juris explores a very interesting question: What exactly is the domestic legal foundation for the CIA’s use of lethal force given that the 2001 AUMF refers explicitly to US armed forces only? As he points out, the question matters especially in connection with . . .
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Readings: Civilian Intelligence Agencies and the Use of Armed Drones by Ian Henderson

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Friday, June 27, 2014 at 3:00 PM

Footnote 44 of the recently released and much-discussed OLC Awlaki memorandum is heavily redacted, but what’s left reads, in part: Nor would the fact that CIA personnel would be involved in the operation itself cause the operation to violate the laws of war. It is true that CIA personnel, by virtue of their not being part of . . .
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A Clue About the Origins of “Imminence” in the OLC Memo?

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 10:37 AM

There’s a lot to discuss about the OLC memo on the al-Aulaqi strike—including, as Ben mentioned yesterday, the origins and significance of “imminence.”  (There’s also excellent analysis over at Just Security, which I recommend to interested readers.) Throughout the OLC memo’s 41 pages, the much-scrutinized term appears several times, often as part of a phrase: “continued and . . .
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Is JSOC About to Become More Transparent on Drone Strikes?

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Friday, May 23, 2014 at 4:57 PM

One frequently sees the claim that CIA drone operations should be handed over to the military because the military is more transparent. I have frequently disparaged that argument, not because the CIA is in fact transparent but rather because direct action undertaken by JSOC isn’t transparent either. But might that change soon? According to a . . .
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NYU School of Law Event: “‘The Snowden Operation’: A Victory for Privacy Rights or for Russia?”

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Friday, March 14, 2014 at 11:04 AM

  NYU School of Law hosted a debate yesterday between Edward Lucas, Senior Editor of The Economist and author of The Snowden Operation: Inside the West’s Greatest Intelligence Disaster—which Ben reviewed last month—and Stephen Holmes, Professor at NYU Law. The event was moderated by Ryan Goodman, also of NYU Law. Here is the description of the panel . . .
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Intelligence Squared US Debate: “The President Has Constitutional Power To Target And Kill U.S. Citizens Abroad”

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Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 9:50 PM

For the Motion: Alan Dershowitz, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School Michael Lewis, Professor of Law, Ohio Northern University School of Law Against the Motion: Noah Feldman, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School Hina Shamsi, Director of the ACLU National Security Project President Has Constitutional Power to Target Americans from Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates on FORA.tv The results are . . .
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SSCI v. CIA—Three Key Questions

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Senator Feinstein’s remarkable floor statement yesterday has thrown further fuel onto an already volatile mix of intelligence and oversight issues related to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s detention and interrogation report. Putting the controversy both outside and inside the SSCI about the substance of the report aside for now, the basic facts as Sen. . . .
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Did the CIA Violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by Accessing Intelligence Committee Computers?

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 7:27 AM

Senator Feinstein recently claimed that the CIA may have violated the federal computer hacking statute, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, by searching computers used by the Intelligence Committee to conduct CIA oversight. Based on the facts we know so far, I’m skeptical of the claim that the CIA violated the statute. This post explains . . .
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Senator Feinstein’s Remarks on the CIA-SSCI Document Controversy

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 9:39 AM

Right now, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Chairman, is speaking out, on the Senate floor, about a well-publicized dispute between the CIA and the SSCI—regarding the latter’s review of documents pertaining to the CIA’s interrogation practices in the years following 9/11, and the CIA’s auditing of Committee staffers’ computer use during the review. . . .
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Lederman on Secrecy, Nonacknowledgement, and Yemen

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 6:15 AM

Marty Lederman has a long post picking apart the errors in last week’s AP story on last December’s drone strike in Yemen.  Along the way he carefully parses the covert action statute, and has interesting things to say about the relationship between secrecy and non-acknowledgment, and how those concepts apply to CIA and DOD.  A . . .
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What is the Domestic Legal Basis for Planned Cyberattacks in Syria?

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at 8:12 AM

David Sanger reports that the Pentagon and the NSA planned a sophisticated cyberattack aimed at “the Syrian military and President Bashar al-Assad’s command structure” that “would essentially turn the lights out for Assad.” He also reports that President Obama declined to go forward with the attacks then or since because of uncertainty about the proper role of offensive . . .
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No “No Spy” Agreements?

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Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 4:48 PM

President Obama on Tuesday affirmatively stated that the United States does not have any “no spy” agreements with other countries.  Many journalists, scholars, and foreign officials have been laboring under the impression that the United States does have at least some of these agreements.  What’s the source of the disconnect? Readers will recall that discussions of . . .
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Reactions to Stories on Possible New U.S. Citizen Strike

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:18 AM

Some thoughts on this morning’s drone strike news (NYT, WSJ). The NYT says that President Obama’s announcement last May of an intention “to gradually shift drone operations from the C.I.A. to the Pentagon” was designed in part “to make them more transparent.”  The theory, I think, was that CIA strikes are covert and cannot be . . .
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Congressional Control of Intelligence Programs (sometimes)

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Sunday, January 26, 2014 at 7:03 PM

In the last ten days, an interesting controversy has bubbled up over congressional control of the drone program.  The quarrel, which has been both internal to the Senate and between the Congress and the Executive, raises some important issues regarding Congress’s ability to control controversial but classified programs (such as the current drone program and . . .
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A Partial Defense of the Front-Page Rule

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 8:33 AM

Late last month Marty Lederman flagged the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies’ endorsement of the Front-Page Rule: That informal precept, long employed by the leaders of US administrations, is that we should not engage in any secret, covert, or clandestine activity if we could not persuade the American people of the necessity . . .
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Tinker, Tailor, Leaker, Spy: The Future Costs of Mass Leaks

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Sunday, January 12, 2014 at 6:35 PM

I just came across this excellent article, “Tinker, Tailor, Leaker, Spy: The Future Costs of Mass Leaks,” by David V. Gioe, a former CIA operations officer and a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge.  His question is not about the effect of the Snowden and Manning leaks on past activities, but on the deterrence . . .
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Most Snowden Documents Concern Current U.S. Military Operations

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Friday, January 10, 2014 at 11:37 AM

One hears that the worst of the Snowden documents (from the perspective of the USG) have not yet been released, and one wonders what that might mean.  Yesterday’s story that “most of the documents he took concerned current military operations” might provide the beginning of an answer (though I expect that another part of the answer is . . .
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